Let’s talk Southern cuisine. It’s really all about the food, right? When you think of Southern American down home cooking, what comes to mind? Grits, cornbread, collard greens, fried okra, and sweet tea are a few that immediately jump out. Fried chicken, butter beans, and banana pudding as well.
Growing up, my mom cooked nearly every meal I ate. We didn’t eat out much and when we did it wasn’t anything remotely fancy. I didn’t realize how much I loved my mom’s cooking until I moved away from home and tried to find a decent Southern substitute. But even now with all the glorious restaurants in Atlanta, nothing comes close to the comfort of my mom’s food. I know the biggest ingredient is probably nostalgia which can never be replicated.
Growing up, my favorite meal was cubed steak smothered in milk gravy, mashed potatoes, and butter beans. My dad used to tell me I’d turn into a butter bean one of these days. Instead of birthday cake, I requested this meal. Whenever I would go home during college, my mom always made sure to make this for me. I’m salivating just thinking about it. I’ve tried on several occasions to replicate the recipe, but my milk gravy never comes out properly. SADFACE.
I remember a trip I went on in high school where we had this huge convention with other kids from all 50 states. The Southern states always spent half the time convincing everyone else that grits grew on trees. And most of them believed us. Oh goodness, now I want some grits – with lots of melted cheese. YUM.
Of course, I don’t like all Southern food. For every black-eyed pea or boiled peanut I’ve inhaled, there’s also a ton of fried okra and sweet tea I’ve left unattended. I just can’t get behind either one. When I was little, greens of any sort weren’t my jam, but now I can’t get enough.
There are so many Southern food variations as well. Food in Louisiana, for instance, is so amazing and so different from the food I grew up with. My last time in New Orleans I had the best gator meatballs and gumbo I’ve ever had the pleasure to consume. I grew up near the coast so seafood was always available. And I’ve eaten my fair share of freshly caught fish – saltwater and freshwater varieties. My brother cooks a mean pork rib and biscuits from scratch. I could now fall down the BBQ rabbit hole, but I’ll spare you.
As far as odd food goes, Southerns like to eat many parts of many animals. One of my favorite snacks growing up was chicken gizzards. My Big Mama (that’s what I called my dad’s mother) used to soak them in this brine and then cook them up. She’d give me a dixie cup full every time I went to her house (which was mostly every day) and I’d gobble those things down like nobody’s business. I have yet to find restaurant gizzards that come close.
What are your favorite regional food memories?